Can’t say we’ve ever done an Online Easter service before…
I’m sure you all look great, in your Easter…Pajamas…or whatever you got on right now.
These are interesting times.
Because we can’t celebrate Easter together in person as a church body…there’s a temptation to feel down about that…or feel like God is not going to be able to do what He normally does.
But I don’t want you to despair about that.
You can’t stop God’s work.
He’s always working.
Even when you don’t see it, He’s working.
TRYING TO KEEP JESUS INSIDE
And today, I want to show you that from a certain part of the Easter Story.
I want you to see how no situation can stop Jesus’ Word from going out
I want us to look at a story that’s found only in the Gospel of Matthew, but one that’s especially relevant this Easter…in a world where it looks like the ability for Jesus’ message to get out has been limited by a virus.
Jesus was buried late on a Friday afternoon, and we’re going to look at what happened on Saturday…the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
(Matthew 27:62-66) – NIV
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
The religious leaders who had Jesus killed…are still worried about him…even though he’s dead.
This is fascinating.
Most of Jesus’ own disciples are cowering in fear and have fled…
But these religious leaders (The Pharisees of all people) remember that Jesus said he would rise from the dead, and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen…
…and that no one pretends that it happened
They want to STOP Jesus’ message once and for all.
So they ask Pilate, the Roman Governor, to make sure the tomb is as secure as possible…so Jesus can be kept inside.
A massive stone, much like you see here (INSERT STONE IMAGE) has already been rolled in front of the tomb (that happened on Friday)
“The stones were rolled in on an inclined channel.
There’s no way you could roll it away from the inside. Impossible.
If you had a large grouping of people, you might, MIGHT, be able to roll it out from the outside.
But the religious leaders are still going to take some additional precautions here…
Firstly, Pilate and the religious leaders decide they will post a guard.
Now, this is actually “guard” (plural)…as in a group of guards.
In fact, we see in the very next chapter that there were more than one.
A typical Roman “Guard” had 4 soldiers.
Two would watch while the other two would rest.
They would have been fully equipped.
Sword, shield, armor, you name it.
No one was going to get in and steal this body…and certainly nothing was going to get out.
Jesus would be kept inside and stopped at all costs!
But, that’s not even enough for them!
They decide to take it even a step further!
They decide that they are going to seal the tomb!
Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re sealing it shut all around the stone with glue or something.
It means that they are going to put a Roman seal on it…
…a Roman insignia seal that would overlap with the width of the stone covering the entrance…and also the tomb.
That way, if the stone was ever rolled away, you could tell that the seal had been broken.
Why would that even do anything, you ask?
Well, the guards would then be personally responsible to ensure that the Roman seal wasn’t broken.
If it was, they could be kicked out of the army, or worse yet, they could be executed.
The religious leaders seem to have come up with the perfect plan to keep Jesus locked inside that tomb…
…even though he’s already dead.
The irony of this is incredible.
If you would have heard their presentation to Pilate, you might have thought:
“What are you even still afraid of?
“His disciples have fled in fear…they’re not going to grab the body”
“And aren’t you guys the ones who said he was lying and blaspheming when he said He would rise from the dead? You don’t actually believe Him do you?”
“Or maybe you did believe Him…but you were actually just afraid that He’d become more powerful than you…and that’s why you wanted to kill Him?”
It’s a crazy story!
JESUS CAN’T BE STOPPED 2,000 YEARS AGO
But, as we know, Jesus…can not be stopped.
Let’s keep reading in the Bible
(Matthew 28:1-6) – NIV
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
The stone has been rolled away.
An angel came down from heaven, the guards freaked out and became like dead men, and the angel rolled the stone away.
No one’s plans can stop Jesus.
No matter how good they think their plans are
This is the UNSTOPPABLE JESUS
And the angel doesn’t move the stone so Jesus can get out.
We see later in the Bible, that Jesus, in his new resurrected body can even walk through walls.
No, the stone is moved so people can see inside.
And see the evidence…that nothing can stop God’s word from getting out.
A massive stone can’t stop it
A seal can’t stop it
A group of Roman soldiers can’t stop it
Not even death can stop it!
JESUS CAN’T BE STOPPED TODAY
So what about today then?
What about Easter Sunday…during a viral outbreak?
We see that Easter egg hunts are cancelled; church buildings are vacant; and even Easter gatherings with our extended families are a no go.
And on the outside, what appears to be happening, is it looks like a virus is stopping the message of Jesus…putting it in a tomb...and rolling the stone in front.
But my friends, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is the UNSTOPPABLE JESUS we’re talking about here.
Just as no stone or seal or guard could stop Jesus and keep Him in that tomb…
Nothing can keep His Word from going out right now.
Just as He did a new thing then, He is doing a new thing now.
His power isn’t limited to our circumstances…or our presence together…or even us at all.
The disciples didn’t have to force a “break Jesus out of the tomb” mission.
Jesus busted out on His own!
His power isn’t perfected in our strength, but rather, it’s in our weakness that He shines brightest.
So yeah, this isn’t the way we normally do things, but in many ways, God seems to be doing more now than He was doing when we “had it all figured out”
I continue to hear from many pastors and churches that they are having more people begin to follow Jesus in this season than they have had in years.
Because people are spiritually hungry right now.
They’re looking for God
People are connecting in our House Groups…via ZOOM…
…some are connecting that haven’t been connected to a spiritual community ever before
Over this past week and into next week, we’ll have brought groceries to SEVENTY-FIVE families in need right here in our community…
…along with a paper that tells them more about how to follow Jesus and how to get connected online with our church.
Church leaders are around the world, from the Philippines to Ghana to Lebanon are saying right now, that they’re reaching people (online) that they were NEVER reaching before.
Friends, Jesus is unstoppable.
You can’t seal Him in a tomb…and no virus will seal up His Word either
His word will always go forth.
Trust in that.
Don’t see obstacles, see opportunities.
Don’t just look at the tomb that’s keeping you inside, but see God rolling the stone away…allowing you speak into new places and into people who now have softer hearts.
Share God’s hope with people in this time.
Text your friends, coworkers, relatives.
Video chat with them
See how they’re doing…ask them about God
I’m seeing, even in my own life, people who are open right now, that have never been open before.
God is rolling the stone away that has been covering their heart
And maybe you are one of those people that’s tuning into church for the first time…or for the first time in a long time.
If that’s you, I want you to hear the message of WHY the angel came and rolled the stone away that first Easter morning.
The message of WHY Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus died, and then conquered the grave, so you could have a relationship with Him.
So you could know Him personally.
He isn’t just some historical figure, but the Son of God, that you can know personally.
The Son of God that you can talk to, and He can guide your life and show you His love.
And He demonstrated His love for you by dying on the cross.
The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross to die for our sins.
We deserve justice for our sins.
And that justice is separation from a holy & perfect God.
That justice is hell.
But God loves you, and He sent his son Jesus for you…as a sacrifice.
As one who died in your place to take the punishment for you.
And if you believe in that, He will indeed take it for you…
And then, you will be declared not guilty in God’s eyes.
You will be forgiven of all of your sin.
And He will come into your life, start a relationship with you..
And you can have eternal life in heaven.
(Hebrews 2:15) – NIV
And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
That you wouldn’t have to fear dying because you could know that you are forgiven in Jesus.
“The Bible sums up its central teaching this way:
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And if you want to believe that Jesus died for you and become his follower, you can do that today.
Just simply take a moment right now…and tell Him that you believe He died for you….and tell Him you want to follow Him.
Let me give you a second to do that
If you did that for the first time today…
Would you let us know so we can get you some resources to help you get started in following Jesus?
Either send us a message on Facebook or text Information to 31996, and we’ll get you some resources to get started.
Let me pray and then we’ll have some announcements for you
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN